While I like to think that I learned a lot from writing my dissertation (Does one size fit all? A study of beginning science and mathematics teacher induction—in case you were wondering), there was one lesson that stays with me just about every day: don’t write anything down by hand.
It is not that I have a particular disdain for the hand-written word, in fact quite the opposite, but after spending far too much time transcribing notes for the various appendices in my rather unremarkable treatise (at the beginning, I thought it would be “great” then I hoped for “good” and finally, after several years, I settled on “good enough”), I vowed to never transcribe another word. Why write the same words twice (albeit using different media)?
That is a vow that I have kept—since I started this blog nearly a decade ago, I have taken all notes electronically, either on my phone or on a laptop. It is far easier to cut and paste than to type the whole damned thing over again.
This has caused some misunderstandings, for sure, as most folks in the wine industry are used to media types scribbling in a well-worn moleskin while they simultaneously struggle to clutch to their wine glass. Once, while visiting with a producer in Sicily, I was furiously racing my thumbs across my iPhone screen, trying to capture a rather poignant quip before the winemaker utter another and said winemaker paused, glared at me, and said “I will wait until you have finished sending your text.”
I turned bright red, of course, but assured him that I was taking notes on my petite yet powerful, pocket apparatus (I even showed him the screen as proof). Now, every time that I whip out my phone to type notes, I alert my interlocutors that I am not, indeed, texting (although now, given that cover, I can actually text someone in said circumstance).
A few weeks ago, I was actually up in Healdsburg for close to a week, visiting wineries and riding my bike. One such visit was to Pedroncelli Winery, one of the stalwarts of Dry Creek Valley. They had recently sent all of their current releases to me in Houston, but Julie Pedroncelli suggested that, since I was up there already, to run through the wines together along with their winemaker Montse Reece. I readily agreed.
As I took out my computer to take notes, I felt the all to common glares (whether real or imagined) and read their thoughts as if they were bubbles just above their heads: “What the heck is he doing?” I assured the two of them that I was just taking notes and may have even mentioned the rather painful memories associated with the aforementioned dissertation.
They smiled, we tasted, and I took notes.
A couple of weeks later, I was ready to clean up the notes for publication. But. They. Were. Not. There. Yup for the first time since my vow to “write” everything electronically, I had lost some notes. My heart sank. I spent the better part of three days researching how to possibly recover the notes, considered visiting the Genius Bar, even contemplating berating my sons (since it clearly had to be their collective fault).
Now, a few weeks further on, I still have no idea what happened to those notes. As far as I can tell, nothing else is “missing.”
Eventually, I texted Ed St. John (V.P. of sales at Pedroncelli and married to Julie) with the “news” of the lost notes. He was gracious (well, as gracious as Ed gets—just kidding, buddy) and asked if I wanted him to send me the wines. Luckily, he already had—I still had all of the current releases in my office.
So here are the first half of those wines, these are all from what Pedroncelli calls their “Core Wines” and most are widely available across the country.
2019 Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc East Side Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $18. Under screw cap. I have been a fan of the wines of Dry Creek Valley for a while now and no producer better represents “Old Dry Creek” better than Pedroncelli. As former hedge fund managers start to “discover” the Valley (read: they figure out that Napa vineyards are just prohibitively expensive), the Pedroncelli family carries on, as they have for nearly a century. In my opinion, they produce not just some of the best values in the Valley, but some of the best wines, period. This flagship Sauv Blanc, which is widely available for under $15, is delightful: light, pale straw in the glass with bright tropical fruit, Bosc pear, and even some lemon zest leap over the rim. The zingy, zesty acidity dominates the palate, followed closely by all of that fruit. I am no fan of the variety, but I could drink this all day long and twice on Sundays. Or something like that. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Chardonnay Signature Selection, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $18. Under screw cap. 15% fermented in American oak. Pale straw in the glass with notes of tropical fruit, lemon, Bosc pear. The fruit on the palate is rather reserved and there is a decided oak influence despite the low percentage that actually saw some wood. There is also considerable creaminess and a buttery weight. While this is very far from the oak & butter bombs of yore, it is more of a “traditional California Chardonnay” which is fine by me. Very Good. 88 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Sonoma Classico, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $20. “A proprietary blend of Merlot, Syrah, Sangiovese, and Zinfandel.” When I was first exposed to this wine, I bristled at the “Classico” aspect of the name—what does that even mean? Then I thought about it a bit and I quickly got over it. At least in my mind (which is a rather scary place, I must say) these four varieties have played a monumental role in the history of Sonoma winemaking and I could see this as a “classic Sonoma” blend. Quite fruity and fun, this is one of the more quaffable wines in the Pedroncelli lineup (by that I mean utterly drinkable without much need to overthink it). Don’t get me wrong, there is still a bunch going on here, but if you open three other random reds from the portfolio, I’d guess that this would be the first empty bottle. Very Good. 89 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Merlot Bench Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $20. Under cork. 100% Estate Merlot. I can’t believe that this is my first tasting note for this wine, regardless of vintage–that can’t be right. Oh well. Always one of the better values in a portfolio that is chockfull of great values. Plenty of blue and dark fruit (blueberry, plum, even some cassis) accentuate the nose with a background of spice and vanilla. The palate is rich and fruity without being overstated or aggressive, this is a lovely wine. Just a hint of tannin on the finish suggests some cellar potential, maybe up to ten years. Lovely now. Excellent. 91 Points.
2017 Pedroncelli Cabernet Sauvignon Three Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $22. 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec. This wine spends 16 months in barrel, 70% American, 30% new French. Medium color in the glass with red and dark berry fruit, a bit of black pepper, and cigar smoke. Very nice. The palate is loaded with fruit, balanced by a tart acidity, and several layers of depth. An above average finish is accentuated by noticeable, but soft, tannins. Another lovely, yet affordable, wine from the kind folks at Pedroncelli. Fantastic. Excellent. 90 Points.
2018 Pedroncelli Zinfandel Mother Clone Dry Creek Valley, Dry Creek Valley, CA: Retail $20. The Pedroncelli story essentially starts and ends with the Mother Clone wine, pretty much, as this is one of the longest continually bottled wines in the Pedroncelli line-up. Dark in the glass but well short of brooding, this is probably where any exploration of Sonoma County Zin should begin. Sure, there are older vineyards, and likely more complex wines, but this is the essence of Sonoma Zin: good, on the verge of big fruit, wonderful acidity, a clandestine earthiness, and a finish that just makes you want to grab more. I have spent a considerable amount of time with the Pedroncellis and their goal is not focused on maximizing profits but rather maximizing enjoyment at the dinner table. Mission accomplished. Excellent. 90 Points.